BY DAVID FISHER
GREENFIELD (April 14) — The stay-at-home order and other restrictions issued by Gov. Bill Lee, in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, closed down all non-essential businesses. This is taking a heavy toll on small businesses and resulted in massive layoffs nationwide.
One of those businesses is Pope’s Concessions in Greenfield, which provides carnival rides and food concessions for company picnics, school carnivals, fairs, festivals, and other entertainment services. One of those events is Greenfield’s Fiddlestick Festival, which offers free children’s rides, concessions and other family-oriented activities to local citizens.
This year’s Fiddlestick Festival in Greenfield, scheduled to take place April 15 through April 18, is postponed and possibly canceled, depending on the developing situation concerning the coronavirus pandemic.
James Roy Pope, who owns and operates Pope’s Concessions, said, “I have prolonged this public announcement as long as I can.” He stated, with all that is happening in the world today and with the guidelines that have been imposed by the federal, state, and local governments, the 24th annual Fiddlestick Festival will probably not take place this year.
“However if anything changes or the mandates are lifted, we would entertain changing the dates, open dates permitting,” Pope said. He noted that anyone who has donated or paid for a sponsorship will have their money refunded.
“This is and was a very hard decision and was not taken lightly. It breaks our hearts.”
Pope says he can only hope the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic will end in time for it to be held at a later date. If not, the event will be canceled until next year.
Pope explained his company is booked with other events, beginning the first week in June. If the stay-at-home order is lifted a sufficient amount of time prior to the fairs, there is a chance the Fiddlestick Festival could still be held.
Pope stated it’s hard to plan ahead because there is no way to know when the ban will be lifted.
“We’re basically closed down until the end of May,” Pope said.
Regarding the impact the coronavius is having on his business, Pope said, “It’s been tough, but we’re very grateful our family is healthy and safe.”
Pope stated he doesn’t want to put anyone at risk for the coronavirus, but on the other hand, he doesn’t want to bankrupt his business either. “We’re trying to hold on and do the best we can. We were already five months without an income, because winter is our off-season,” Pope said. “Now it’s time to start, but nothing is coming in until at least June (due to the COVID-19 outbreak).”
Pope stated he has three permanent full-time employees on the payroll, but when the fair season starts, he usually has about 12 workers. “I’m keeping my three key employees. I don’t want to give them up. The guys that work for me are housed here, and that pretty much has us all quarantined together.”
“This festival is very near and dear to the Pope family and our loyal employees. We want everyone to stay safe. We love our hometown, our neighbors, and our industry. God bless all of our loyal sponsors that make this family tradition possible each and every year.”
On a more positive note, Pope stated he and his crew have been doing a lot of maintenance, painting and upgrading of equipment while waiting for the stay-at-home order to be lifted.
Over the weekend, James Roy and his wife, Jane, along with their son, daughter, future daughter-in-law and three employees, worked the Fiddlesticks concession stand, which was located in the parking lot at Tate’s Family Foods in Greenfield.
Pope stated he set up the snack stand Thursday night and sold concessions Friday and Saturday.
“We had a super turnout and the people were very nice,” Pope said. “For the most part, social distancing was not a problem. It seems like people just naturally do that now. They stood in line, but kept their distance from one another. An exception was family members that arrived in the same vehicle and were living in the same residence.”
Pope stated he upgraded his business license so he can set up the fiddlesticks stand anywhere, not just at carnivals and fairs.
“It was good for me to get out there and see people that were smiling. It gave them a little bit of normalcy that they weren’t getting.”
He added his business is going to weather the storm. “People like anything that’s normal. They love the cotton candy and ice cream bars. We sold fiddlesticks by the dozen.”
This was the second time he set up the concession stand since the outbreak of the coronavirus.
“During the first weekend in April, we got out and worked in Trenton, Tennessee, and received a tremendous welcome from the patrons,” Pope said. “What an amazing day we had in Trenton. We had a little rain, a lot of sunshine, and a whole lot of very happy and grateful people. “We heard Trenton’s Teapot Festival was not going to happen, so we set up a single concession booth at the Food Rite shopping center. We just advertised locally that we were going to do it and had a tremendous turnout. Nearly everyone that stopped by the concession booth thanked us for being there.”
Additionally, Pope mentioned that he plans to set up a concession stand in Greenfield over the weekend and sell Fiddlesticks ice cream treats by the dozen.
Pope’s Concessions has been a family tradition for 96 years. Since 1924, the Roy Pope family has been making that delightful concoction of creamy delight known as the “Fiddlestick.” These ice cream treats have been made available at various county fairs and celebrations throughout West Tennessee and the Southeast. The ice cream treat is where the Fiddlestick Festival gets its name.
Greenfield’s Fiddlestick Festival is only one of many special events across Tennessee that have been canceled or postponed, due to the threat of the coronavirus. Dresden’s Iris Festival, which is normally held the last week in April through the first week of May, is rescheduled to July 4 to July 11. Major West Tennessee festivals that have been canceled include: the 67th annual World’s Biggest Fish Fry in Paris and the 83rd West Tennessee Strawberry Festival in Humboldt.
BY DAVID FISHER